The Dragon and the Siren

Epilogue

I want to say thank you to all of the wonderful friends and reviewers who have enjoyed this story as they read it. I appreciate each and every bit of feedback that you give me, even more so because I know that you enjoy the fruit of my labors. And also, thank you to my wonderful betas, Inkheart17 and Prince Suzaku for their awesome beta work on the first version of this story.

This story has been a lot of fun for me to write! Despite this story's inspiration from the classic myth, I decided that instead of having Katara's absence being responsible for winter every year – which would be cliché – Hakoda would just storm around for a bit every time she leaves, and the whole six-month turn was also something I decided to not use, as she'd miss either her dad or her husband after six months. I felt that for this story, it'd be better for her to go back and forth freely, and have the freedom of choice that poor Persephone never had.

o0o0o0o

The Fire Lord winced as he felt a icy blast of air in his face, and tried to hide his grimace as Katara came to his side, the two of them standing at the helm of the great metal vessel as it approached the harbor of the Northern City. Not surprisingly, he saw Hakoda, Pakku, Kanna, Bato, and Sokka at the wall, gazing out at them.

The mortals swarmed around the shore, whispering excitedly amongst themselves. Having a Fire Nation ship was nothing new since the beginning of trade between the two nations, but it was said that on this one would be the Goddess of Water and her mate, the mighty Fire Lord. And indeed, this ship was grand and glorious, as befitting the powerful God of the Fire Lands.

Curious murmurs ran through the crowd as the ramp lifted down, a red carpet rolling downwards, causing several people to ooh and ahh. When the Fire Lord and his wife emerged from the boat, whispers of awe rippled through the crowd as people bowed. Zuko was dressed in full regalia, albeit one tailored for the cold weather, his thick velvet cloak the color of blood under the sunlight and trimmed with dark gray fur. Katara was dressed just as regally in blue and black silk and velvet, her own cloak trimmed with white fur. She gazed at the gathered mortals calmly, her chin high as she scanned the area for her Clan. Only when she saw them did she allow a small smile to grace her lips.

Hakoda studied the couple, noting how contented they looked together. He gave his son-in-law a slight bow of acknowledgment and respect, and the rest of the Clan followed his example. Though the Fire Lord was outwardly calm, the Sea God sensed his nervousness. The procession was quiet as they made their way through the city and into the Palace, where Maidens hastened to set a feast before them. Away from the throng of mortals, the Fire Lord allowed himself to relax just slightly. The only people at the table were Katara's grandparents, father, brother, and Bato.

The Palace was starkly beautiful, and the Fire Lord allowed his gaze to roam along the cavernous room, taking note of the architecture and decorations which were elegant and understated. He was silent as Katara chatted amicably with her clan, and spoke only when he was asked questions. At first, he found the meal to be slightly awkward and uncomfortable – he didn't know these people well and there was of course his... history of kidnapping Katara – but when he saw that no barbs were being sent his way, or comments along that vein, he relaxed a bit more, allowing himself to enjoy the food and surroundings.

"Will Zuko be participating in the hunt for the snow-lily?" he heard Pakku ask as he was trying out the sea-prune soup. He glanced up at the older God.

"Your granddaughter told me about it, and if you would welcome me to be part of it, then I will be with her during the hunt." Zuko replied.

"The hunt is reserved for the clan." Pakku replied. The golden-eyed God had to stop himself from scowling. So now the barbs come out... he thought to himself. But the God of Winter continued, surprising the Fire God with his next words. "As you are now mated to Katara, you are part of the family."

"I am honored that you would consider me part of the family." Zuko replied, inclining his head. Pakku returned a slight bow of his head.

o0o0o0o

The Northlands were beautiful in their own way. Jutting out of the ice and snow was Pakku's palace, an impressive structure with many stories, made entirely out of ice. In front and below it was the city where mortals lived, making up the Northern Water Tribe. Surrounding it was an endless expanse of ocean and ice.

Zuko had heard of snow enough times, and had seen it in small amounts within the Earth Kingdom. He had never seen the legendary Snowfields before, the icy realms where Pakku himself lived, with a few Water Maidens and Warriors who enjoyed the extreme cold. The Fire Lord found himself bundled up in a thick blue parka, a gift to him from Hakoda. Though the Gods did not have to worry about frostbite or hypothermia, they could feel cold or heat, and he wondered how mortals could even live up here. How did they deal with it? Why didn't they just move to warmer regions?

Fuck, the fact he was a mighty Fire God and could feel cold in such a profound manner was testament to the beautiful harshness of this legendary place. Truly the Water Maidens and Warriors, and the mortals who lived here under their guardianship, were hardy people to survive in such intense conditions. Were it not for the girl who ran out in front of him, a smile plastered on her lovely face, Zuko would have left this place a long while ago.

"I have to say this... you look adorable in that parka." she cooed, seeing him shiver slightly. In response to that shiver, she brushed down his wind-tousled hair and pulled his hood up, framing his face in soft white fur. Agni damnit. Only Katara could convince him to visit these Snowfields.

He had learned that on each first day of winter, there was a friendly competition within the Clan to find the first cluster of the white flowers. He squinted and stared across the field, and saw nothing. How the hell did these people expect to find anything in the snow? The sun glared off the white field, causing him to squint, as he felt his wife's hand squeeze his own through his thick mitten.

All Zuko saw was white. White, white, white. The whole damn field looked like a fresh sheet of paper, completely pristine and clean. And the snow was so thick that even with these heavy clothes and boots, Zuko still felt cold. Perhaps this was karma's way of showing him how Katara had felt the first time she had been in his volcanic palace. He felt a small pang, at remembering how terrified the Maiden had been when he had taken her through the magma. She had screamed and cried, clawing at him, begging to be let go, genuinely afraid that the magma would harm her.

He'd apologize to her... later. Right now, he wanted to find these snow-lilies and find a place with some hot chocolate and an even hotter Water Maiden able and willing to 'warm him up' properly.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw other Warriors and Maidens preparing for the search. They would start on Pakku's signal. This was no serious competition, and was a game, the losers taking it in good spirits and still bringing in flowers, and the winner gaining nothing more than a small prize, such as a pendant or bracelet.

"You ready?" Katara asked softly. She squeezed his hand, "If you're cold, use a bit of Firebending to warm yourself. There's no rule against that."

That was true. Bending was only forbidden when it was used to 'cheat' in this race, but it could be used if one of them fell in a crevice or needed some shelter against the winds. Blowing into his hands, he made sure that the soothing warmth surrounded them both. Judging from the look in Katara's eyes, however, this was absolutely nothing to her. Her hood was down, and she wasn't even wearing mittens!

He almost envied her for her ease in the cold, and her blue eyes twinkled at how he was bundled up. He had on several soft shirts under his parka, gloves under his mittens, thick pants like all men in the Tribe wore in the cold, and tightly-knit stockings within his boots. His servants had already packed winter clothing for him, but he dared not refuse the gift of a full Water Tribe winter outfit from his father-in-law that had been presented to him this morning after their breakfast.

He and Katara stood together. Some Warriors had paired off with Maidens, some were working on their own, and a few clustered into small groups, waiting for the God of the North's signal. Pakku sat calmly, looking imperious in his thick white cloak as he coolly observed all the young gods and nymphs.

Having a heart that was as warm as an ember beneath an exterior colder than the North Pole, The God of Winter's eyes lingered long on Katara and Zuko. At one point, Pakku could not even think of the Firebender without feeling the urge to violently maim him, bury him in the heart of an immense glacier and cast him out to the middle of the ocean. But now, the God of the North could see just how happy his beloved granddaughter was with the Fire Lord... and a part of him took amusement at how the high and mighty God of the Fire Realms was shivering like a leaf in an autumn breeze.

Hakoda took the same amusement in the fact, though both men had enough tact to not mock Zuko for the fact. The older God raised his hand, and brought it down swiftly. As soon as his hand dropped, the Warriors and Maidens made a mad dash into the Snowfields. Zuko found himself being dragged along by his mate, her laughter filling his ears.

That sound did warm him up, though. Hearing Katara laugh always managed to make his day that much brighter, so much so that he momentarily forgot the cold as she dragged him by the arm. He struggled through the thick white powder, and managed to avoid a face-plant.

"All you have to do is pick up your feet. I know you're not too used to this." She smiled as she dusted his shoulders of the snow before tugging him along again, Pakku and Hakoda disappearing from view as they navigated the fields, little pinpricks of blue in the distance showing the presence of the other Warriors and Maidens

After a few more minutes, it didn't seem so cold out here. His Firebending undoubtedly gave him a far faster ability to adapt to extreme cold, allowing Zuko to be much more help to Katara in finding these elusive snow-lilies. Though he had never seen one, considering how reverently his mate spoke of them, the Fire Lord had a feeling he'd know them when he saw them.

The Snowfields were not all flat. There were some dunes and valleys, and even several small mounts of ice jutting through the snow. There were also ice-caves, and lilies often could be found in the refuge of these caverns. It was like a desert – but done entirely in snow and ice. So far, no one had yet found a snow-lily, as there was no victorious cry. He was starting to wonder if they would ever find one, when he heard a soft and happy cry from his mate, as her eyes fixed on something he hadn't noticed right away.

Making his way over to a small outcrop, he saw Katara's eyes lit up with joy as she covered something with her hands. Against the dark blue fabric her parka and the mocha color of her hands, he saw it as clear as day, its petals indeed as white as snow. Her eyes were alight with delight.

"I've never won this competition before." she admitted shyly.

"Guess I'm your good luck charm, then." Zuko offered with a dry smirk on his face, though he was entranced by the quiet beauty of this snow-lily. No wonder Katara thought so highly of this flower.

Near her, he saw a cluster of said flowers, looking almost too fragile for the harsh climes of the North. Yet here they were, growing as if they might in soft, rich soil. His eyes fixed on the cluster for several long moments, though he did not touch the beautiful flowers. Zuko could not help but imagine her with a crown of these lilies, like the crown of fire-lilies she had woven on the first day of summer.

"Come on. let's get back to Grandfather." Katara said with a brilliant smile. Using some Waterbending, she carefully lifted the cluster of lilies out of the snow, cradling it against her chest.

"Some of the lilies are harvested, to be planted at Grandfather's Palace, and at the city too, to be enjoyed by us and the mortals for the rest of the winter. The winner of this competition is not the only one who brings them in. Most of the others who participate will continue the search and bring home more. Only here in the Snowfields can they be harvested, for all attempts to plant them elsewhere have failed." Katara explained as she tugged him along.

"What can you do with the snow-lilies?" Zuko ventured. Aside from its more... carnal properties, the fire-lily was also an ingredient in many powerful healing salves and potions that could negate poison and cure venom by "burning" it out.

"The mortals use it to cure fevers, and cool things." Katara responded as the two of them made their way across the snow. "Your fire-lily shares many properties with my snow-lily, but where yours warms, mine cools." She shot a fond glance down at the cluster that she carefully held.

"Reminds you of some people, huh?" he commented lightly. She smirked and raised her eyebrow at his statement, chuckling softly before her face became calm again as they approached Pakku.

"Grandfather, I found the first snow-lilies!" she said, her bright azure eyes alight with happiness as she offered him the pale flowers in her outstretched hands, her head slightly inclined in respect. Pakku turned to regard the young woman with a genuine smile, a rather rare expression given his wry and dryly sarcastic nature.

It was a bit surprising for Zuko, but he was silent as Katara approached the older man, so that he could inspect the lilies. One of his hands reached out to touch a petal, and Katara gave him one of her soft and sweet smiles. It was not hard to see why she was so beloved by Pakku. Indeed, Katara had that rare gift of being able to charm anyone she came across with her spirit and good nature.

o0o0o0o

That night Pakku hosted the Solstice Feast, and Zuko was exposed to a wide variety of Water Tribe foods, and an entertainment that was unique. In Fire Nation, the performers used fire, or in the case of the non-benders, banners, rods, and other props. Not surprisingly, the dancers here performed with water, making graceful shapes and undulations in the air with their native element. Their dance and style was different – but one thing could be said with complete veracity.

Waterbenders had the same passion and fire as Firebenders, and he found the ceremony to be fascinating. He had brought spicy cocoa powder from the Fire Nation, and had shown the Clan how to make hot chocolate with it. Katara reclined against him happily as she sipped her hot cocoa, the arm of her husband wrapped around her.

When the Fire Lord saw Bato approach, he did not stiffen or prepare to pick a fight with the older Water God. Unlike Aang, Bato had taken his loss of the woman he loved gracefully though not without sorrow. Katara had made it clear to him that she had made her choice based on not any kind of failing or shortcoming on Bato's part, and the two remained friends. Zuko had been a bit jealous at first, but in short time he realized that he had absolutely nothing to worry about. Katara would never betray her mate.

With a respectful nod to Zuko, Bato sat at Katara's other side. A few amicable words were exchanged between the Water Gods, and Zuko didn't bother to fret as the other two gods started laughing softly before turning their attention to the show.

As the night went on, the last course of the feast was passed around\ before the performers were replaced. Zuko had already been alerted to the main points of the night by his mate, so he sat back and watched.

The Dance of Moonlight, while more understated than the dances in the Fire Nation, displayed an undercurrent of pure erotica and want from both parties that was just as inflammatory as the most scandalous dance his people could offer. He had to convince Katara to put on a private display for him. Hopefully, she wouldn't mind being tackled and ravished before it was done.

The couple performing this dance was a Warrior and Maiden recently betrothed.

Mortals said that the Water Gods were as cool as their element. They never saw the Moonlight Dance performed by the Clan, which only the gods and nymphs were allowed to watch... and he was the first person outside of the Clan to see this. To actually have this performed in front of him was a high honor indeed.

The mortals performed the Moonlight Dance as well for their own kind on this special night, the couple dancing within the sacred Ice Temple before their audience even as their Gods performed and watched their own Dance within Pakku's palace.

The young Warrior was clad in nothing but black linen that wrapped around his hips to hide his most private areas, leaving the rest of his lithe form bare, his dark skin glistening under the moonlight with stripes and swirls of black paint, interspersed by a very small amount of white. The paint and markings were to represent him as La, the Ocean that surrounded them all. His female counterpart, a Maiden who Katara had grown up with, was clad in soft white material which covered just her breasts and private areas, her body decorated with pearly white paint and just a touch of black, to complement her lover's guise. She represented Tui, the Moon, who bathed them all within her silvery glow.

Off to the side, a few Maidens were singing softly, their voices going up and down in graceful undulation to accompany the dance. Zuko thought the singing was lovely, but personally, no one could rival Katara's dulcet tones.

The dance could be seen as foreplay, even though the Warrior and Maiden did not touch each other once during their entire performance. Their hips and bodies swayed smoothly, the water they Bended moving and swirling around their bodies gracefully. One could see the longing in their eyes, and practically feel their desire for one another ripple through the air as they approached one another over and over again without actually making contact.

When the ritual was over, the Fire Lord could see Warriors and Maidens make eyes at one another, courtship and coupling in the minds of many, no matter how old or young. The older men of the Clan had glints in their eyes that rivaled the ones of their younger brethren. Something told the Fire Lord the waves wouldn't be the only things churning and rocking this evening...

Katara was aware of a young woman sitting at Bato's other side. She was several years older than Katara, and both of them had trained together under the tutelage of Pakku. Nen was interested in Bato and had had a crush on him for a few years now. She however had been too shy, and her father was rather protective – many of the men of the Tribe were like her own father, for remnants of the old ways still remained. Katara smiled at her as an idea quickly illustrated itself in Katara's head.

As the dancing couple retreated and pulled on robes that had been set out for them, some of the women approached their intended partners. Some made formal requests which were accepted eagerly, while others merely had to glance at their men and receive a knowing smile in return and a nod.

Zuko bowed to Hakoda and Pakku out of respect, making it clear that he knew the honor of being allowed to witness the ritual. Katara squeezed his arm.

"Go to our room. I'll be with you shortly." she whispered. The Fire Lord's mate lingered a bit longer, approaching Nen. She gave the older Water Maiden a friendly smile.

"Don't you have someone you would like to ask to share the winter solstice night with you?" Katara asked.

"I... uh." Hen blushed faintly.

"There surely must be someone! Some handsome Warrior who you like." Katara's tone was sly and encouraging. "After all, this is ladies' night."

Nen's gaze slid across the floor to rest on Bato, who was entirely oblivious of the scrutiny he was under.

"Go and ask him. He's a really nice guy." Katara gave the other woman a friendly but firm nudge.

o0o0o0o

Zuko shivered as he waved his hand, bringing more life to the flames that crackled in front of him. The bed in their assigned room was piled high with blankets and furs, and he could not help but recall how he and Katara had snuggled into it the night before, abstaining from sex and simply enjoying the comfortable intimacy of two bodies sharing warmth. It was the only thing keeping him here at the edge of the legendary Snowfields, in the coldest place he had ever experienced.

He turned his focus back to the fire, adding a couple more pieces of wood to it. Oh yes. He let out a slow exhale of delight. Good fire. Lovely, warming fire. The fire in the pit reassured him, and it cast the room in a warm glow, taking an edge off the crystalline white and blue that surrounded him. He let out a slow breath, extending his hands towards the flame and drinking in its heat before he heard the door open and close.

Zuko turned to look at his wife, but words failed him. Underneath the clothes she had been wearing earlier, was similar to what the female had worn during the Dance of Moonlight, but what clad Katara's private areas was of a translucent silk which left only the barest minimum to imagination.

Right now, even the volcano had nothing on the heat in the Fire Lord's blood. His eyes moved along the silk, her nipples taut against the thin fabric as she looked down at him, her thick robes at her feet. Not only was she wearing this beautiful, sheer outfit, she was in her Siren form, her scales glistening under the moonlight that filtered in through the window.

The golden-eyed god could not help but wonder if it'd be in poor taste to fuck Katara so hard her grandfather and father could hear it, even if she was the temptress. Her hips started to sway in a perfect imitation of the Dance, as she slowly approached him. The moonlight made her eyes luminous.

"Zu..." she murmured huskily. Under the light of moon and fire, her dark nipples were rather visible through the pale fabric, and he could also faintly see the dark triangle between her legs.

"Will you dance with me?" she asked, her voice a soft Siren's coo. Normally, Zuko wasn't much of a dancer. But at that moment, it seemed like the most natural choice in the world.

She smiled as he rose to his feet, his golden eyes warm and luminous. He didn't mimic the male dancer's movements exactly, as his own moves also drew from Firebending. He slowly slid off his shirt so that he was topless, his pale skin white in the moonlight. A small smile of satisfaction crept onto his face as he noticed the hungry glow in Katara's eyes as his toned, muscled chest was exposed to her gaze. He had the same effect on her as she did on him, and it felt good.

This pleased him to no end, and they danced together, in front of the fire and the Moon, taking in the light from their respective elements. Katara looked stunning in the diaphanous silk, a wreath of snow-lilies in her loose and flowing hair. Just before the dance could wind down to an end, he found himself tackled to the furs.

From what he knew about the Dance of Moonlight, it was the woman who held control over the man in what happened afterward. After all, the sun was seen as the masculine element while the moon was seen as feminine. Not that this degraded the males of the Water Clan in any way, but during certain ceremonies, it was only fair that the women be in charge. And on this longest night of the year, what better way to keep warm?

Zuko was content to let Katara have control tonight. The Moon shone on them, as she did on all the other couples in the Palace and out in the city – gods, nymphs, and mortals alike, as they celebrated the first day of winter.

Apparently, the moon made Katara even more aggressive than normal, and it thrilled him. She growled at him, biting and scratching him, frantically removing her clothing and his in the process before she got on top of him, her movements heady and powerful, her hips undulating like the waves crashing against the shore. There was no room for finesse or teasing in her gameplan; Katara had become a purely sexual being, and the Fire Lord would be the last person to complain about it...

And if he did, his vocal complaints would have been drowned out by the chorus of Water Tribe men who were being passionately ravaged by the women who had chosen them as partners on this special night.

No Fire Maiden or Goddess could ever compare to the fierceness of his lover, Zuko mused at some point in his fierce mating with his bride, overwhelmed by her passion and wanting more, using what remained of his voice to give her encouragement. He heard some muffled shouts and cries from other parts of the Palace and beyond, but barely registered it. When he came, he had to keep himself from spitting out too much flame, as the entire Palace was constructed from ice. The part of Zuko that hadn't been short-circuited from his mate's fierceness knew that 'I'm sorry' wouldn't cut it for melting part of the structure during orgasm.

His head lolled back on the furs as he basked in the afterglow, feeling slender fingers trail along his chest.

"This is the first time... I've been able to celebrate the first day of winter like this." Katara murmured with a satisfied smile. Zuko made a second mental note: Always spend the first day of winter in the Water Tribes.

Katara let out a contented sigh. Always, before, Hakoda had considered her too young to participate in the after-festivities of the Winter Solstice. Warriors had tried to catch her attention, hoping that she would choose one of them to couple with. Hakoda had been so protective of her, standing between her and prospective suitors that this was her first Winter Solstice actually treated as a woman instead of a girl. Even though Zuko was no Water God, he made the young Goddess very happy. Very happy, indeed. He had effectively ruined her for all other men.

She hungered for his touch as much as he did hers. No other man would satisfy her now, or ever. As the soft pre-dawn light poured in through the windows, she snuggled close, wiggling against him as he pulled up several furs. He could not help but feel a small rush of pride at that, and at having fallen in love with such a fierce and strong female. Agni be praised, indeed... though in this case, Tui and La also deserved a good amount of thanks. He just hoped that there was no awkward stares at him or Katara, given the fact that they had apparently hit notes during that coupling that had never been heard before.

The Palace was peacefully quiet now, though he supposed that was to be expected. They had just celebrated the longest night of the year, and Katara cuddled up to his warm body under the furs, the snow-lilies still in her hair.

How she could look so angelic and innocent when she had effectively molested him multiple times that evening was beyond Zuko's comprehension, especially with these lovely flowers in her hair, making her seem even more maiden-like. Gently, he touched one of the flowers with his finger. It was indeed cool to the touch, in sharp contrast with the warmth that the fire-lily exuded to those who touched it.

So fitting for Katara. She could be as lovely and beautiful as anything, yet she had that iron core of strength deep within her. And when angry or dealing with someone she did not see as honorable, the daughter of Hakoda could be just as chilly as the translucently-white flower in her hair.

"Thank you for coming up North with me." Katara said softly, laying her head on his chest as he stroked the thick waves of her hair. It indeed meant a lot to her that he was willing to come up here, to this cold place which couldn't be any more different from his volcano than night was from day.

"It was my pleasure..." Zuko answered honestly. He had always had some interest in other cultures despite his absolute loyalty to the Fire Nation. A sharp contrast to his sister and father, both of whom had thought the other civilizations lower than dirt and the people common, vulgar and weak, unworthy of even being in their shadows. Having a variety of cultures ensured that the world remained an interesting place, and the Water Tribe's cultures were no better or worse than his own. The cold, he certainly could do without. But the hunt for the snow-lily, the ceremonies, the feasting, he had learned so much. It was one thing to hear about these events or read about them in scrolls. But to have experienced them firsthand...it was something he would never forget.

In truth, there wasn't that much difference between the customs of the Fire Nation and the Water Tribes. It had really been the closed-minded and ignorant that deemed them 'savages' and prevented the sharing of knowledge. While the Fire Nation may have had the upper hand in technology and such, the sheer scope of knowledge the Water Tribe possessed, especially in terms of the healing, hunting, and seafaring arts, made them more than a match.

"It's nice being up here in the North with my clan, but I miss the warmth of the volcano. I fear that you have spoiled me with your heat." she said with a soft smile, "But you must admit, the cold gives us an excellent excuse to snuggle up under the furs, yes?" she teased.

"I wasn't aware we needed a reason to cuddle." the Fire Lord stated imperiously. Her soft, beautiful laughter filled the air as she raised her head, her eyes twinkling merrily as she fixed them on his own. Zuko was usually taciturn, but here and there, he could make a little joke, or make a comment that she enjoyed.

"As the Fire Lord and Lady, it is our right and privilege to snuggle anywhere we want, anytime we want."

"Damn straight." Katara replied cheekily, her eyes still twinkling happily as she gazed down at her mate.

"And now, I invoke that right." Zuko demanded with all the arrogant and aristocratic power of the Fire Lord, though his lips were curled in a smile of his own.

"I obey, my lord." Katara replied as she pulled up the blankets and fur farther, encasing them within a cocoon of warmth away from the cold that seeped into the Palace.

"As well you should!" the golden-eyed male pretended to demand. "Now continue showing me your devotion."

She wiggled against him, and he felt a warm leg slide across his own.

"Excellent. Such an obedient woman. I chose well." he stated, lifting his chin slightly. To this, his mate blew a raspberry. Before her tongue could be withdrawn, the Fire Lord wrapped his own around it and proceeded to show Katara why she should never expose said muscle to her husband unless she was able and willing to use it.

Of course, Katara couldn't complain. She happily accepted the kiss, letting her hands slide along Zuko's chest as she snuggled closer, basking in the love of her mate.

o0o0o0o

Though Katara presented a downright tasty image when she was adorned in the deep red silks of the Fire Lady, blue was no less attractive on her. She had adorned herself in a shirt that ended just above her knees, the front sewn with an intricate pattern of varying shades of blue thread along with beads of mother-of-pearl and ivory. A thin trim of fur fringed the hems of her garment.

She had also added a few beads to her hair, and with her indigo-hued pants and fur-trimmed boots, she looked every bit the Water Goddess that she was.

It still took some getting used to, this change of surroundings, for the Fire Lord. For so long he had been surrounded by heat and red, and now there was all this blue and cold... yet it was alluring and fascinating in its way, just like Katara. He watched as his mate looked in the mirror quickly before opening the door, and he followed close behind. Nobody had bothered with breakfast, and lunch was a casual affair, the various members of the Clan seated on comfortable cushions at low tables, helping themselves to the thick stew and savory dumplings that had been made in advance and kept near the fire to remain hot and tasty. Hot tea and cocoa were served to wash down the meal.

As Katara led Zuko to a quiet corner near one of the windows, she smiled to herself as she saw Bato and Nen sitting together. Nen looked especially satisfied with herself, and Bato seemed to enjoy her company.

After the meal was over, Zuko and Katara had the rest of the day to themselves. The festivities were for the most part over, and he let Katara lead him out of the Palace and into the Northern City. Like in the Fire Nation when the Fire Lord and his Lady went amongst the people, the Tribesmen and women here bowed to them, recognizing the authority of the Water Goddess and her mate.

"You really should wear blue more often." Katara whispered as they walked along the wall in front of the city, looking out at the ocean. Though he had donned much of his own clothing, he wore the boots and parka that Hakoda had given him. The combination of blue and black was striking, especially with Zuko's pale skin and raven hair.

"We'll see about that..." Zuko playfully challenged as he looked down at her. Like yesterday, she was dressed more lightly than he, choosing to wear a jacket rather than a parka today since it was just a bit warmer than hast. Despite the fact that it was a cloudless day, the sunlight was unable to banish the cold that he was still all too acutely aware of.

The expanse of sea before him was one he had seen on an almost daily basis due to living in an island Palace. However, here, the water seemed bluer, and it was dotted with icebergs and ice-floes. Off to the left on a bit of land and ice that jutted out from the side of the wall, Zuko saw some tortoise-seals.

"Later this afternoon, I'll show you the Oasis. It's the warmest place in the Northlands." Katara said.

"You mean there's something warmer than our bed?" he teased. She laughed and swatted his arm lightly.

"Is that all you think about?" she shot back.

"In this place, my mind is constantly on the subject of keeping warm."

Katara let out a soft chuckle. "We just need to keep moving. Don't let Dad hear you complain about the cold!" she said with a small smirk.

"Believe me, I don't intend to." he replied. She smiled at him. When Dad had come to visit the Fire Nation, it had been an especially warm stretch of hot autumn days, and Hakoda had been rather unused to it, trying to maintain his dignity and comfort. She had seen his efforts to keep himself cool, but he had never complained to Zuko or asked for cooler accommodation. It was a macho thing, each of them trying to prove themselves to the other. It was only natural from two men who were so different yet had so much in common.

She looked at her mate. Blue really did suit him nicely, and it made the color of his hair and eyes stand out all the more. Even after all the time they had already spent together, looking at him still made her insides melt. It was such a wonderful treat to have him immersed into her native culture, to show him – and share – what was important to her. So far she knew that Dad was impressed and pleased with Zuko's behavior so far in this strange world. It had not been easy gaining Dad's approval, but after what Zuko had done to Long Feng, the path to earning it became a lot smoother. The old Earth God would never dare set foot in Fire or Water Lands uninvited ever again.

Zuko was content to just stare out at the ocean, just as he had done so many times from his Palace or the beach. The sheer vastness of it was beautiful, and one could just lose themselves in it. Was it any wonder that he loved Katara so much?

"I love you." Zuko whispered as he draped his arm across her shoulders. She gave out a contented sigh as she looked up at him, resting her head against his shoulder as she wrapped her own arm around his middle.

"I love you, too."

o0o0o0o

Throughout the generations, people of all four nations spoke of how the Fire Lord had captured the daughter of the Sea God. Inevitably – as happens to all stories – some details change. Some said that Zuko had forced himself upon the Water Maiden, or that he forced or tricked her to eat the pomegranate, thus bonding her to himself and ensuring that she would have to return to him every time she went to visit her family. Of course, such details were added in by those who did not think that Zuko and Katara belonged together, their malicious or jealous tongues twisting a tale of love.

However, there were those who witnessed the relationship between the two, and saw the love in it. For every wagging tongue who would twist the tale, there was one that would speak in defense of the couple.

The Fire Lord's subjects came to love their new Queen, and Zuko was accepted into the Clan. Despite any naysayers, the Fire Lord and his Water Goddess remained together for the rest of eternity – happily so.

o0o0o0o

Again, thank you to all you readers, whether this is your first time reading this story or not. I'm glad that you appreciated the changes I made to the story, I always strive to make my stories the best they can be for readers and I use my editing as part of that. I am much more satisfied with this version than I was the first. As always, pleas enjoy, and don't forget to let me know what you thought of this story!

Original Version started 2007, finished January 2009, final version February 2012

Spleefmistress/CultOfStrawberry